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1st Marine Division


1st Marine Division

Camp Pendleton, CA
Tougher than Grease: Dark Horse Ajax Challenge

By Cpl. William Perkins | 1st Marine Division | August 25, 2015


Marines and Sailors assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, executed the Dark Horse Ajax Challenge aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Aug. 20, 2015.

The eight-mile course tested the Marines’ and Sailors’ endurance and leadership skills with trials spread across the Camp San Mateo area.

“We call it the Ajax Challenge because, out of all the Greek warriors, Ajax is the only one that did everything with pure brawn. All of the other warriors who fought in the Iliad had help from the gods,” explained Lt. Col. Hunter Rawlings, the battalion commander.

The Marines kicked off the challenge by memorizing a radio transmission and a list of gear they’d be required to recite at the end of the course, said 1st. Lt. Peter Delany, company commander, Co. K, 3/5. Continuing on the course, the Marines overcame many physical challenges including climbing ropes, crawling through trenches full of mud and water, running up hills and carrying simulated casualties.

Rawlings explained the event is to motivate the Marines to be like Ajax by dividing the battalion into fire team-sized elements and running through the course to conquer the obstacles.

“It’s a challenge to be like Ajax,” he said. “To be a combat intelligent warrior, you don’t have to be the smartest Marine, you just have to be able to overcome obstacles and have the spirit that you can do it.”

Rawlings added, on long runs Marines get tired, so adding obstacles and incentive to get the Marines motivated allowed them to blow right through the challenge. Despite being caked in mud and sweat, the Marines crossed the finish line with motivated smiles.

Camp San Mateo is surrounded by hills which represent a great metaphor to life, stated Rawlings. The hills are obstacles the Marines must overcome every day, if they can conquer the hills, the Marines are ready for anything.

“What I asked the Marines to do on top of First Sergeant Hill is to look down at the crosses at the memorial to remember the Devil Dogs we’ve lost and look over the horizon and realize they’re on top of the hill. They’re Marines, they can do anything,” he said. 
The Ajax challenge is one of the many training evolutions used to motivate and prepare Marines and Sailors with 3/5 for their upcoming Unit Deployment Program.